I spent yesterday with one of my closest friends, her older sister, and mother. After fifteen years of friendship we know each other well, and I know her sister and mother well, both from stories and from time spent together when they visit. Basically, what I’m saying is, I know exactly what will happen, how long it will take for what fight to break out, how long before my friend and her sister gang up on their mother and the awkwardness that ensues, how long before my friend’s mother starts treating me like her third daughter inducing the same annoyance and anxiety my friend started feeling the second her mother walked through the front door, who will have what meltdown when, and how we will all say what a wonderful time we had together.
Late into the evening my friend’s sister and I were in the kitchen baking an apple pie. My friend walked in, mother in tow, and I watched as the years and years of hard work and self-exploration to address and manage her anxiety flew out the window in a matter of seconds sending her storming out of the kitchen – a cross between a toddle and a petulant teenager. Her mother, like all good mothers who push their daughters’ buttons for sport, knew exactly what had sent her over the edge and went after her, like all good mothers who don’t know how to leave their daughters alone at the appropriate times. Moments just like that one have happened to me thousands and thousands of times during visits with my own parents. I took a moment to reflect one everything that had just happened, especially considering I will be visiting my parents in just four short weeks.
My friend and I are very similar. We had similar upbringings with similar family dysfunctions, and most of our childhoods were spent in dance studios. Perfectionism and anxiety filled our lives…they still do, but we have learned to turn them down and regularly remind one another to keep our anxiety in check. We understand one another. We get it. We have both grown tremendously. And yet, our families still push us over the edge.
In the end, my friend’s sister and I joined forces to remedy what caused the meltdown. A half hour later everyone had calmed down and we were all curled up on the couch sharing stories and photos of our cats – it’s best to stick with neutral topics. My friend’s mother couldn’t stop herself from micromanaging how long the apple pie stayed in the over, but at that point no one had any fight left. When she said, before the timer went off, “I think it’s time to take the pie out of the oven,” my friend’s sister got up to take the pie out of the oven. I said, “Perhaps you are right.” And my friend continued looking at photos of her sister’s cat on the iPad.